From the artist’s New Mothers series. Chromogenic color print.

The shock of sudden motherhood
flares Julie’s face like fireworks

willowing. A single hour
post-delivery, her infant’s skin

still burns with birth, the crimson
offset by mother’s pale exhaustion.

Their dual nudity caffeinates the frame.
How did she cull the strength to stand

before the camera? Must be her first time
holding baby—any baby?—the way

she smashes the thing to her body
like ill-positioned groceries—

jumble of soup cans, milk, and melons
she will not drop no matter what.

I wonder if that little mouth can breathe.
But this is what a mother does, a mother

holds. Even caught in labor’s daze
I knew to call my squirming howl

Beautiful, so beautiful…

before oceans of hands swept my son
onto a metal tray to measure things.

My husband watched his eyelashes
unfurl. Then, gratitude,

a new kind of female gratitude,
for the nurse who knew to find me

two cups of strawberry ice cream
I consumed with a miniature paddle,

loving each slide of sweetness,
my legs earthquaking under the blankets.